Race: Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon – https://fueledbyfinewine.com/

Runner: Mark P

Date: 7/10/2016

Location: Dundee Hills (wine country), OR:  The 2016 race started and finished at Stoller Family Estate.  The course changes every year.

Results: 1:25:56, 3rd place gun time (4th officially)

3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most

  • Running through wineries!  This is the reason to run this race.
  • After-race party:  There is a big tent with ~25 local wineries.  Most (or every?) winery had a Pinot Noir and a white (mostly Pinot Gris and Chardonnay).  You also get to keep your Pinot wine glass with race logo.
  • A challenging course:  It had ~1700 ft of climbing and dropping, and I think this was less than other years.  I generally describe it as racing more like 14 miles than 13.1.

Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  • This is the only race I’ve ever done that used chip times instead of gun times for placing.  This mostly wouldn’t matter except that there’s a guy that starts 10 minutes late and passes as many runners as he can as a fundraiser.  This knocked me out of the top 3.  It makes the event part race and part time trial.
  • The 7am start is really tough if you’re not staying (very) nearby.  I was staying with family in Corvallis and had to wake up before 4am to make it work.  I think the race previously started at 8am, and I’m guessing they hit a hot year and are trying to avoid that.
  • Yes, it’s rather difficult to actually appreciate Pinot Noir after a hard HM.  But whatever ????

Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race

The connection to wine is definitely the weirdest thing about this race.  Both the course through wineries and the wine-tasting at the end are pretty unique.  The wine tasting, as one might expect, is pretty different from the beer gardens at many races.

Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular

I paced this one pretty well.  There were some long climbs, and I felt like I hit a good balance of getting up them and having some energy left afterwards.

Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

The terrain is difficult on this course every year.  Sometimes there are long or steep descents on roads, which just pounds the legs.  This year had a lot of rough gravel and a bit of uneven dirt/grass.  I run in fairly minimalist stuff, and while I used one of my more cushioned shoes, it was not enough and my feet and lower legs were toast by about mile 9.

Aesthetics – is it a pretty course

Definitely!  Wine country is beautiful.  The early and late road sections were less interesting this year (before climbing to and then after dropping from the vineyards).  There’s a lot of running along the ends of rows of vines and even some running down the rows.  The higher points of the course have views of the surrounding areas.  The course also loops around some of the winery buildings, which are somewhat interesting but less so than the vines and views.  Sometimes the stretches to get to and around a building seem long.

Difficulty – is it a tough course

Yes, and extremely so if you are used to road courses.  There’s always a lot of elevation, and the terrain is tough too.  I’d estimate it’s 30-60 seconds per mile slower than a flat, road HM.

Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

I think this was the 7th Fueled by Fine Wine, and it’s well done.  I did packet pickup the morning of the race and it was quick (though I was there right at the beginning so I don’t know if it backed up later).  There was a long line of porta-potties, though as usual there was a line right before the race start.  The race started 5-10 minutes late, though they announced it at least 10 minutes before the planned start time.  The course was well marked.  The only time I was worried was on a long road stretch.  With no turns, there were no markers, and after a while I started to wonder if I’d missed something.  But eventually I hit the next turn.  There was a wide range of food at the finish (I’m forgetting some but I remember bagels and croissants with spreads, bananas, string cheese, and cookies).

Competition – is there a strong field?

It’s pretty sparse at the front.  There was an impressive 1:17 but then only 4 more within 15 minutes of that.  Past that there are plenty of people to run with in a field with over 1000 people.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

I believe that the race has sold out in past years but took same-day registrations this year.  I would recommend watching the website and planning on registering at least a few weeks or a month in advance.  Lodging might be more difficult as there are over 1000 runners on top of the usual visitors, but eventually there will be something as you get closer to Portland.

Aid Stations

There were 6 or 7 stations that had water and a sports drink.

Weather and typical race conditions –

It can vary.  Rain could make a cool morning seem awfully cold.  This year we had 50s at the start and the rain held off, so it was great.  Everything is pretty exposed, so a hot, sunny day could be rough.  I think the 7am start is intended to help with that, but as usual the faster one is the better the heat can be avoided.

Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Unless you do a lot of running on tough terrain, I think you’re going to want extra protection for the feet.  If you already wear highly-cushioned shoes, then you’ll probably be fine.  I’m still not sure what I’d want to race in.

Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends

I think the courses are generally tough to get around on because there aren’t that many roads and the course often isn’t on them.  That said, hanging out at a beautiful spot on the course for a while isn’t so bad.  Pro-tip: volunteer and get free entry into the race party.

Awards –

Warning: Awards were done by chip time so you have no idea if you need to beat the person next to you by 0.1 or 10 seconds or if someone out of sight will beat you.

Top 3 overall male/female and top 1 (or maybe 3) masters male/female as well as top 1 in each gender/age group win bottles of wine.  Each runner can only win one prize.  I believe the top 3 (and maybe the masters) won magnums.

I like having technical shirts that say “Fueled by Fine Wine” on them.  All participants get them (unless maybe same day registrants if they run out).

The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it

5/5.  This is the only race I’ve really made a point to return to a second (and now third) time.  I love the running/wine combination.  It’s a great challenge for road folks (and I suspect still not on the easy side for trail folks).